Fireflies and Chocolate (The Manteith Collection)

Written by Ailish Sinclair
Review by Dorothy Schwab

In 1743, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Manteif was in Aberdeen, Scotland, to choose a new horse. Instead, she finds herself “a kidnapped prisoner aboard a slave ship” headed to America. Elizabeth’s goal now is to get back home. Readers “survive” the difficult Atlantic crossing with Elizabeth and her protector, Peter, only to be thrust into the heartbreaking scene of children and adults being sold as slaves in Philadelphia. Ailish Sinclair captures readers’ hearts with Elizabeth’s Scottish brogue and “wee” glimpses into her childhood and even conveys hope when she escapes from her new owner into the woods to find two “quines,” one Native American and one Black. These girls become a link to Elizabeth’s emotional and physical survival. Ailish Sinclair weaves the plight of plantation owner, Michael, and his personal dependencies with Elizabeth’s search for Peter, writing of letters home, and passionate but dangerous quest to right the wrongs of slavery. Through heart-stopping twists of fate, Elizabeth’s journey intersects the plight of slaves on a tobacco plantation with her own passage through stages of grief and coming of age in a new country.

Ailish Sinclair spins this Scottish tale filled with excitement and suspense as encouraging news of the Jacobite Rebellion and Bonnie Prince Charlie reaches America, only to get the crushing reports of Culloden Moor. Scottish phrases become familiar as history and mysteries unfold, right there with Elizabeth on the gangplank of the ship heading back to her beloved Scotland. Like Elizabeth wrapped in a plaid, savor the pages of Fireflies and Chocolate and wait for that ‘bonny” feeling, “I’ve come home.”